Thursday, 17 April 2014

Devouring Books: Running Like A Girl by Alexandra Heminsley

"'It's the most natural thing in the world. We were born to run.'
'You just put on your trainers and head out the door, that's the beauty of it.'
'It's just you, the road and your thoughts.'
These are the things that people say about running. These are lies."

The lovely Charlotte sent me Running Like A Girl for my birthday, and no sooner was it in my hands than I was reading it, no sooner was I reading it than I forgot all other books existed, no sooner did I start it than it was finished. I have bastardised Shakespeare to make this very pressing point- I read this book really quickly, and it was completely awesome. There.

In my review, I've got to make it fairly clear that I'm coming at this book from one specific angle- that is, someone who has really just started running, and who kind of loves it, and who wants to read about it as much as possible and figure out how to be better at it. I don't know if this book would convince anyone to run at all (I hope it would- on the whole it makes running sound REALLY difficult, but even more worth it) so if you're going to ask me 'will it make me want to put my trainers on and run round the park like a loon?' then the honest answer is, I don't know.

As always, all I can tell you is what it did for me. Heminsley has run marathons, and I haven't yet made it to 5k, and yet there's something fairly universal about the experience of running that made me agree emphatically with basically everything in this book. There's the unexplained aches that come with using muscles that haven't had to do anything for years, the sheer terror that comes with your very first run, and allll the anxieties that run through your head when you're about to start running. What if I dehydrate? What if I throw up? What if I faint and people see me and then when I'm ok they all laugh because I'm so unfit that I faint if I try to run? WHAT THEN?

These are all anxieties that I've genuinely had, and they're pretty much the same ones as Heminsley describes. The fact that I'm not the only person to have had them, even now when I'm pretty much like 'oh, it's running day? That's cool, maybe I'll drink some water and then go,' is extremely reassuring. The fact that Heminsley has had them and has ALSO run marathons makes me rather foolishly go 'well, maybe one day I could...' and then I have to stop myself before I even think it because NO. I definitely can't run a marathon and I want you all to remind me of that if I ever even think about doing it.

Which I won't. Because I can't do that. Seriously, stop looking at me like that. I can't. 

BACK TO THE BOOK. Not only does it document Heminsley's running journey, from aborted first run to four completed marathons, it also contains a lot of practical and useful running advice that means it's a real keeper of a book. There's a chapter on injuries, on what to pack when you're running the London Marathon, one on deflecting people who say that running is a waste of time/will fuck up your knees/will ruin your tits, and another on the running gear that you'll actually need. There's even a chapter on the struggles that women have faced even being allowed to run in marathons (The women's marathon wasn't an olympic event until 1984. I mean, COME ON) that, possibly more than anything else in this book will make you so angry that you'll have even more of those terrible thoughts about running a marathon yourself. 1984 IS ONLY 30 YEARS AGO, THAT IS RIDICULOUS.

And, maybe most importantly of all, this book made me cry. Oh yes, a memoir about running made me cry. How is this possible, I hear you ask? Well. Firstly, running has become a bit of an emotional thing for me because of how I never thought I'd be able to do it and now I run three times a week and it's hard and it hurts but I do it and I didn't think I could. So there's that. And watching the London Marathon on Sunday started me off because there are all these people, all doing a thing that they didn't think they could do, only they can and it's awesome. And then I was on the bus, reading this, and it got to a part when Heminsley was doing the marathon and she didn't think she could carry on and then she sees her family and they are AMAZING and it's all just wonderful and I started crying like a baby on the bus. It was a lot, but it was kind of lovely. Emotions, man.

So. This book is pretty awesome if you already are a tiny bit in love with running, or even in love/hate with it. As I said, I'm not sure it would spur you on to run, but how can someone's amazing life achievements NOT make you feel at least a little bit inspired to go out and do something yourself? It doesn't even have to be running, but it has to be something. This book is perfect for making you want to do.


  1. I'm glad you're enjoying running and it's going so well for you!!!! And that you enjoyed this book so much.

    I am still sort of "eh" to the running thing. It's not bad but not something I've yet decided to give an actual try.

    1. You can do iiiiiiiiit! I still SEVERELY recommend a couch to 5k programme because OMG. So useful and the only thing that has let me build up to running for like 20 minutes at once (nearly...) and yes. So good.


  2. That sounds awesome. Plus, I do think you could run a marathon. If you don't have any serious health problems that stop you, I think you'll get there! :)

    I wish I could come to love running, it's not like I haven't tried - several attempts and around being able to do 8k I give up because I just can't ever push my thoughts beyond "F*** this, I'm suffering too much for this to be healthy for me". Even though I have no problem e.g. swimming 2k at a reasonable pace. I want to love running, but I can't. So I hope it goes better for you! /rant over ;)

    1. I... could probably run a marathon in theory? I could definitely walk one. But I'm absolutely not there running-wise and maybe never will be haha.

      I don't really like swimming because I can't see well at all without my glasses so swimming just freaks me out because OTHER PEOPLE, NOOOO! Running definitely hurts more, but in a way I'm almost glad to feel it because it really feels like I'm doing something, you know?